The Wits Health Consortium has allocated R250,000 for a study to find out whether students are suffering from hunger or can afford food to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Vuvuzela asked a development planning Master’s student, Thandiwe Dlamini, if she knew any students who go hungry. “That’s not a question. People are starving,” she said. Dlamini said she knows of students who get a very low budget of about R 300 a month and go to sleep hungry.

The study aims to influence university policy to support what it calls “food insecure” students. Programme coordinator, Anri Landman, said: “A food insecure student wouldn’t have enough food to live a healthy and productive life, and we suspect this has a major influence on students’ ability to concentrate on their academic responsibilities.”

Landman said the research was motivated by students who overheard a conversation amongst students talking about not going to class for the last few days because they did not have enough money to buy food and could not focus.

Second year social work student, Regina Ngwenyama, who receives R 800 per month from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says after two weeks her money and food is gone.

 “It’s painful to go on a hungry stomach; it’s difficult seeing your roommate eating and you don’t have [food],”  Ngwenyama said.

Ngwenyama said she thinks the NSFAS allowance should be increased to R 1 500.

The research will also look at whether or not food outlets on campus provide affordable and nutritious food.

 Landman said early discussions with Wits students indicated “students perceive food available on campus as expensive [with few] healthy alternatives.

“They would like to see more affordable fast food outlets, greater variety of fruit sold on campus and more drinking water stations.”

The research is conducted by the Siyakhana team and  involves 15 Wits 3rd year, 4th year and postgraduate students who were selected and trained to do the research.  They hope to release their findings at the end of the year.

If you want to participate in the discussion you can join the Facebook group named: Is there hunger on Wits Campus?